User review by Chris Linck, N2NEH
As a certified six-metre nut since 1959, I am always on the lookout for new toys for the magic band. Late this spring, I got wind of the fact that the good folks at Ranger Communications (www.ranger usa.com) were bringing to market a new six-metre all mode radio which was envisioned for the entry level/portable market. The portable part immediately got my interest and I fired off an e-mail to Ranger to request the particulars on this radio. Ranger confirmed all that I had previously learned and said that the delivery date was scheduled for mid/late July.
In late July, I purchased my Ranger 5054 (SN: T1600831) from HRO in Salem, New Hampshire. It arrived just in time for me to make friends with it before the XYL and I took off for a vacation/DXpedition to St. Augustine, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. Before we left, I was able to put the radio through a familiarisation session or two.
First, I was able to operate it right out of the box... then I read the well-written instruction manual. The radio is really quite portable. It is about the size of an Alinco DX 70TH, but only weighs slightly over three pounds. The manual says seven amps to operate it and you can believe it. I used both a Tripp Lite PR 7A power supply and a Whistler PP4000DC 12V/7A portable power supply. Before long, I found that the portable supply would last about two hours and then things began to get `fuzzy'.
Right out of the box, my little beastie delivered almost 11 watts on AM and FM - the manual advertises 10 watts. With the Whistler supply, I did get the advertised 10 watts. On SSB, the radio delivered the promised 25 watts PEP.
My first contacts were with the local crowd here in the Albany, N.Y. area. I simply jumpered the Ranger in to my coax switches and took off. Most of the local operators who know the FT 847 that I normally use, thought that I had changed mikes and backed off a little on the power. All said that my audio was crisp and on the high side - always a plus for DX work. I listened to myself on a monitor and I do agree with them. Experimentation with the adjustable mike gain said that 3/4ths throttle was good and any more was overkill. I'm sure that this could vary with individual Ranger radios. Also, with just 10 watts on FM I was able to work the `open' six-metre repeaters in the area. All contacts through the repeaters gained positive reports but I could not get into tone-encoded machines. The first run of the 5054 does not have a tone encoder. That, according to Ranger, is soon to change.
I really did want to work some AM too, but AM around here is not heavily in demand. I was able to check in to a nightly AM net centered 25 miles west of me in the city of Schenectady, N.Y. The few stations that I worked all agreed that the Ranger sounded good and I can say that the AM receiver and received audio were both good - with the received audio a bit on the bassy side.
For my DXpedition, I took a Par OmniAngle Loop antenna and a home-brewed resonant feedline dipole with me. I used a four-foot piece of lightweight aluminium pipe as the mount and a 15-foot piece of 8X Mini coax for the feedline. In both St. Augustine, and Charleston, I had permission to mount the antenna on the hotel sunroof rail. I also took along my MFJ 945E tuner but did not need it as I had marked the Par OmniAngle for resonant construction on site. The built in SWR meter is fairly accurate and when the last pip on the SWR scale disappears, you are in the 1.2 to 1.0 actual SWR range as measured through my 945E tuner. Without the external tuner, I believe that the internal SWR meter provides an accurate assessment if you have to `prune to tune' your antenna. With a bit of practice, I was able to set up and be on the air in less than 10 minutes.
What a surprise I got when I first went on the air in St. Augustine - does the word `noise' mean anything to you? As my hotel was right on Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine, my little Ranger heard everything. You name it, it was there... noise-wise.
Then I noticed that I did not have the Noise Blanker or ANL engaged (easily accessible on the front face of the radio). This little beauty lets either the NB or ANL be engaged separately or together. When I kicked them both in, about 95% of the noise disappeared. N2NEH/4 was on the air.
But from there it was all uphill. I worked four W/K 5s, one W4, one WP4, one KP4 and one VP5 then the band dropped out never to return for the rest of my trip. I did manage to work a couple of the locals in St. Augustine on CW after that. Sorry, the CW end of the DXpedition did not give me enough time to form more than a general opinion that the CW worked OK. Oh well, at least it was sunny every day and the beaches were lovely!
I would also like to share a few more thoughts and observations about the Ranger 5054. First, the receiver on this radio is excellent. It has very good sensitivity (.15uV) and selectivity. I was able to work a few kHz from strong stations without any major problems, and I was hearing the DX stations at practically the same level as the locals. However, the receive audio is on the bassy side. This is not too much of a problem as the front mounted `clarifier" (BFO) can be used like an RIT to take care of that situation. However, the speaker is mounted on the bottom of the radio and when the radio is mounted on its mobile bracket for support, this compounds the bass receive audio. That, I don't like - a top-mounted speaker would be far better, although this is probably a bit of nit-picking as I used Ross headphones almost all the time.
Another item that that is part of the radio's operation is a `roger' beep which can be switched on and off. I believe that this is not needed. This probably goes back to Ranger's CB days. They could use that switch position to activate the tone encode function when it becomes available.
All the controls are front-mounted and easily accessible, even to a fat-fingered guy (a legacy from my football days) like me. The frequency selection is done via a twist knob, or a pair of push button up/down, switches or from the mike. But to change the frequency one first has to switch a cursor to either the MHz place or to the individual 1/10, 1/100, or 1/1000 places. Now that can cause a bit of heartburn when you lose track of where the cursor is set and want to change frequencies fast. You might be on 50.118 with the DX contact of your life and your contact says, "let's QSY to 50.145". You hit your mike switch and rapidly run up to 50.148...oops, you forgot to re-set the cursor. Now, that's heartburn.
Do I have any other areas of concern? Not really. One needs to keep in focus that the 5054 is designed as an entry/portable level radio. With a price tag in the neighbourhood of $300 - $325 (U.S.), this radio delivers as advertised. Is it in the same class as my Yaesu FT 847 or my Alinco DX70 TH? No, it is not but then again it is not supposed to be. When operated within its parameters, it definitely is well worth the price. The bottom line is that this radio is a `keeper' as we say over here in the Colonies. Well done, Ranger Communications.
If you have access to the Internet, see http://www.rangerusa.com/rci-5054dx. html for more information on the Ranger 5054.
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